Media Release – Tuesday 3 September 2012
Students encouraged to vote in Local Government elections
A concerted push to ensure more tertiary students are on the electoral roll to vote in this year’s Local Government elections is proving a success.
Special efforts have been made by the Electoral Commission to get enrolment packs out to as many first-time voters as possible, resulting in more than 700 new enrolments in the last four weeks alone. This proactive approach has seen enrolment forms distributed at student halls of residence throughout New Zealand.
Pete Hodkinson, President of the NZ Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA), has commended the initiative being shown by the Electoral Commission and the assistance it has sourced from Generation Zero, a youth-led organisation committed to getting New Zealand moving on climate change issues.
Pete Hodkinson: “At the end of the day, it’s about young people having their say in deciding what kind of future we have. Getting more young people on the roll and building momentum for a larger voter turnout in 2013 is hugely positive. It’s now up to organisations like NZUSA and Generation Zero to highlight the different policies and platforms being put forward by candidates that might motivate students to vote”.
Nina Atkinson of Generation Zero, said that the 2013 Local Government elections will be an important signal of where candidates stand on issues such as prioritising steps towards a low carbon future.
“We will be asking candidates to sign a pledge to prioritise policies that reduce carbon pollution and will be surveying candidates on their stances on key issues in different regions and publicising score cards with this information”.
“Looking further ahead we’re also really encouraged at the Government’s announcement that full online voter enrolment has been introduced as part of the changes to electoral law. This has the potential to make a big difference to participation, particularly for first time voters and young New Zealanders”.
Pete Hodkinson urged everyone who is eligible to vote in the local body elections to examine the issues that will impact most on their lives.
“People often underestimate the important role played by local government, and the fact that their vote influences the type of attention councils give to the issues they care most about.
“One of the stand-out examples of what can be achieved when students and councils communicate well with each other is the memorandum of understanding signed earlier this year by the Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA) and Dunedin City Council.
“NZUSA believes the practical areas of focus identified by OUSA and Dunedin City Council – such as better housing, use of public transport and building on a strong sense of community resilience – are universal across all regions of New Zealand that students live and study in.
“The quality of housing that students pay to live in is a case in point of the need to introduce measures such as a warrant of fitness. These are the types of issues that candidates for the elections in October need to speak up about if they want students to vote.”
OUSA President Francisco Hernandez, who is now standing for election to the Dunedin City Council, said that the memorandum of understanding with students in Dunedin is something all student associations could aspire to. “It offers the way forward for constructive engagement”.
NZUSA and Generation Zero will shortly release a video “call to action” to encourage students to exercise their right to vote in the Local Government elections which close on 12 October.